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Camping, Bedtimes, and Babies

Here’s a nice thing about camping against a mountain range; the sun goes down really, really early. 

The sun drops behind the Organ Mountains. The sky trends towards a deeper blue as cold air washes over cactus in the foreground

So it was that we found ourselves wandering back into the campsite from different directions, (the kids from the desert, my partner and I from a rock jutting out over a shallow ravine coming out of the mountains) at 3:30. 

By 4:00, we’d started dinner, and our fire. 

By 5:30, things were pretty dark, and pretty cold. 

Half an hour later, my partner and I had climbed into our sleeping bags in our tent—the kids have a separate tent, remind me to tell you about how awesome that is for everyone another time—to read ebooks. 

A half hour later at 6:30 PM, the gang, 9 year-old DAize, 8 year-old Towser, and 5 year-old Tawnse—climbed into their tent to call it a night.

As much as camping physically exerts all of us in a really good way, the gang didn't instantly fall asleep. I know this, because the geography of our campsite created what’s a rather rare occurrence these days: our tent was only a few feet from the kids' tent. 

I could hear them chattering along, talking about their day at first. Then heir talk rambled towards acting out a murder mystery to see if they could figure out who the murderer was, (ala the Maureen Johnson Truly Devious series they’ve been reading lately, and the Poirot series they've been watching.) Thanks to also voraciously consuming the Golden Compass series via audio book, the youngest became a cat daemon before long, mewing into the night. At one point in the murder discussion, I hard the oldest, “Hang on, I have to calm this cat a bit.” Things carried on like this for another forty minutes or so, before I heard it. All of a sudden, all three kids went silent at once.

My mind catapulted back to when each of them were infants. Nights when they were  fussy, I’d bundle them into a wrap and we’d wander about the house, looking for a comfortable pace or place. I’d bounce, I’d babble, we’d put on TV shows in the background—Agent Carter was a popular one—and slowly but surely, we’d both calm ourselves back to snoozing, usually leaned up against an assemblage of couch cushions to get our angle just right depending on the kid and the day. Later, I’d sneak them back into our bed, and get a little more rest myself.

During each of these wanders, there’d come a point. A point where the kid would suddenly go silent. They never fell asleep on the first silence. I’d start to count off seconds in my head. 

Ten seconds. 

A few minutes later, seventeen seconds. 

Ten seconds. 

Forty-three seconds. 

Fifty-seven seconds. 


The sun all but gone behind the Organ Mountains. The mountains black, outlined by a small fringe of white lite that fades rapidly to deep blue and black.

I popped back from my memories, to find myself unintentionally counting the seconds off. Twenty-three seconds... 

Then, as if nothing had happened, they were all right back in the heart of their conversation. The topic meandered back to satellites and UFOs. They’d seen two satellites earlier in the night from the top of their tent.

About twenty minutes later, silence. This time it stuck. The stars shone down on both of our tents, the desert breeze, and the occasional chirp, screech, whistle became the only sounds in the black, pre-moon night.


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